BY D’ARCY EGAN Fishermans Central, the huge fishing tackle shop in the Portage Lakes area just south of Akron, will make its presence felt at this year’s Progressive Cleveland Boat Show at the I-X Center on Jan. 16-20, sponsoring the addition of a sprawling Fishing Expo to give the marine show a special spark. Dan Blackert, the president of Fishermans Central, has a full plate as he readies the company’s second location in Port Clinton for its grand opening in March. “Adding the Fishing Expo to the Progressive Cleveland Boat Show came about when Director Michelle Burke of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, which hosts the Cleveland Boat Show, and I were talking about the good old days. That included the fishing and hunting show that used to be held each winter in addition to the Cleveland Boat Show,” said Blackert. “Michelle wondered if a fishing expo could enhance the boat show, and perhaps Fishermans Central would be willing to sponsor it. It took me about two seconds to decide.” Blackert and his partners opened Fishermans Central in 2014, quickly growing into the largest private tackle shop in Ohio. His partners and employees are avid anglers, “as passionate about fishing as I am,” said Blackert. The success of that tackle shop, and the lure of Lake Erie’s fabulous fishing, led Blackert to deciding to open a second store in Port Clinton. Taking over 30,000 square feet of an old Walmart building in Knoll Crest Plaza, the gateway to the Catawba Peninsula, Blackert will also deal in boat sales and marine repair. While the Cleveland fishing shows had languished in recent years, Blackert has already decided that national angling stars and a wealth of major fishing tackle and equipment displays will bring them back, giving the region its largest fishing and boating event. “We’re showcasing some very famous bass fishing stars, such as three-time FLW Angler of the Year David Dudley, the fishing expertise and jovial attitude of Fat Cat Newton, and Major League Fishing star James Watson, an old drill sergeant who is one of the funniest folks you’ll ever meet.” Also on the bass stage are Lori Povisil and Beth Mills, top pros on the Ladies Bass Anglers Association circuit, Florida’s Drew Cook and Randall “The Honey Badger” Tharp, who owns both a Forrest Wood Cup trophy and a Bassmaster Elite Series title. While bass fishing is in full focus at Fishermans Central, walleye will also be prominent at the Fishing Expo, and at Fishermans Central-Catawba, their new store. Lake Erie fishing guide and tournament angler Julia “Juls” Davis from Port Clinton is featured on the fishing stage, as well Ali Shakoor, who is also a marine biologist, Zak Jobes and Ryan Buddie, a fishing guide in Ohio and Alaska and an airline pilot. Ross Robertson has spent years on the Great Lakes, but has traveled from Western Europe to the Arctic Circle to catch exotic fish. Exhibits to visit at the Fishing Expo will be the Trout Fishing Pond with champion angler Jim Vitaro; daily seminars on kayak fishing with the Hobie Fishing Team; the Casting Lagoon casting challenges; and the Bass College sponsored by Boat Masters Marine, which has the Berkley 5,000-gallon Bass Aquarium as its stage. On the Fly will include fly fishing opportunities at the Casting Lagoon. Rig it Right with Ohio Sea Grant will help young and old create a walleye lure. The Sportfishing Simulator will challenge people to fight a sailfish. The Buckeye Sports Fishing Stage will provide angling advice by a team of fishing pros. Show hours are: Thursday, Jan. 16, noon-9 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 17, noon-10 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 18, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Monday, Jan. 20 (Martin Luther King Day), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Boat show tickets are $15, $13 for seniors. Kids 12 and under are free. Parking is not included. Discounted tickets can be purchased online at clevelandboatshow.com.